GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Two shrimp boats that have been tied to the banks of Gulfport's Industrial Canal since Katrina are now sinking. According to the DMR, that makes them derelict vessels. And that means they can finally be removed from the busy waterway.
Gulfport's Industrial Canal is always a safe harbor for shrimp boats when a hurricane approaches. According to the DMR, Ole Faithful and Nuthin' Fancy were brought to the canal as Katrina was making landfall.
Irvin Jackson is the DMR agent who oversees derelict boats.
"Unfortunately the owners have not moved the vessels. So they've been tied up there since then," he said.
For almost four years, yachts and barges have navigated past the shrimp boats. As long as the boats remained upright and out of the shipping channel, the DMR had no authority to move them. Jackson said that changed earlier this week.
"I believe two of them have sunk," the DMR investigator said.
Ole Faithful is the boat closest to the Bayou Bernard bridge. Its backside is suddenly submerged in several feet of water. The back of Nuthin' Fancy is also covered by gallons of canal water.
"A vessel is considered derelict and abandoned if it's sunk below mean high tide, which means it's got to be in the water," explained Jackson.
Both of the shrimp boats fit that description. That derelict classification gives the DMR authorization to find a way to remove the vessels from the canal.
Jackson said step one was to locate the owners "and notify them, give them a legal notice requiring them to remove the vessels within 30 days." If the owners can't be found, DMR agents will go to Chancery Court and ask for permission to remove the sunken shrimp boats themselves.
The DMR just went to court on another abandoned vessel case. Since July, the Tiger Shark has been anchored just feet from Biloxi's beachfront. DMR agents considered the rusty vessel both a nuisance and a threat to the public. On Friday, a judge authorized the DMR to haul the steel hulled boat away.
However, Jackson said some good would come from this abandoned vessel. He expected the Tiger Shark to become an artificial reef for fish in the Mississippi Sound.
"Our recreational fishing and charter boat industries will get some benefit from it," Jackson said.